Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My response to Senate Bill 2031's definition of professional development

Below is the testimony I provided to the ND House Education Committee:

Many districts including my own here in Rugby have worked to create job embedded professional learning opportunities within our school district.  This largely begins with the school calendar.  We must have the structure in place to provide innovative ways to develop our professional capital.  The Rugby Public School District operates as a professional learning community.  This means that all of our teachers collaborate within their grade levels and subject areas. For example, we have 36 one hour late-starts over the course of the year that occur every Wednesday morning from 8:00AM to 9:00AM.  We worked with our community, DPI, and our school board to implement this over a two year period. Along with our late-start we have four early releases scheduled periodically throughout the year that are approximately two and a half hours in length. 

This time is used for the following:
·         Researching best practices to improve instruction
·         Unpacking standards into student and parent friendly language
·         Implementing standards based learning processes
·         Developing assessments that are aligned to standards
·         Book studies
·         Developing a scope and sequence at each grade level
·         Data analysis
·         Lesson design

These structural changes have placed the focus on learning at RPS.  Our professional learning is individualized for the teacher and of high quality.  It includes a large amount of teacher choice and they are provided a voice in decision making. 

I suggest that we provide flexibility in reference to the requirements found in 15.1-06-04:

15.1-06-04. School calendar - Length.

A day of professional development must consist of:
  1. Six hours of professional development, exclusive of meals and other breaks, conducted within a single day; or (2).
  2. Two four-hour periods of professional development, exclusive of meals and other breaks, conducted over two days.
The requirements above hinder our ability to provide effective professional learning for teachers. Professional development needs to be job embedded for it to be effective.  Traditional “sit-and-get” professional development days are often held outside of the school calendar. This structure rarely impacts instruction because it is not connected to the classroom and occurring throughout the school year.  Learning Forward, a leading professional development organization suggests,

“Professional learning should occur several times per week among established teams of teachers, principals, and other instructional staff members where the teams of educators engage in a continuous cycle of improvement.” 

In my experience “sit-and-get” professional development does not work.  Our teachers at RPS are learning throughout the year and applying their learning in real time.  Four and six hour segments of professional development are ineffective.  We need to provide districts the flexibility to become innovative.  Please allow us the flexibility to break these segments into one hour increments and leave it up to the discretion of the superintendent and the local school board.

Another important item to consider is that most school districts will have their calendar set for the 2015-2016 school year before SB2031 is finalized.  In Rugby, our calendar will have its second reading on March 6, 2015.  It currently includes all 36 one hour late-starts, and four two and half hour early outs for professional learning. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I also attached a copy of our proposed 2015-2016 school calendar that details our structural changes that may violate this bill’s requirements.  

1 comment:

  1. Mr. McNeff your comments are spot on. I just corresponded with my legislators telling them this is the new way to do PD and the law is the old way of doing PD. Time to update their thinking.